When Evil Lashes Out

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.
(Deuteronomy 31:6 )

Our hearts again break at the news that innocents tragically lost their lives over the weekend. With the intensity and frequency of such violence increasing, a further tragedy threatens: that we become calloused to the horror of evil. That we become desensitized to the point we no longer have tears to shed, but instead shuffle quickly into the public square with angry words.

Make no mistake, there is a time for necessary engagement with policy in our nation. There will be time for anger. But first, let us grieve this hateful savagery. Let us stand together – yes, you read that right, TOGETHER – and mourn yet another demonstration of pure, unadulterated evil in our nation, against our people.

Someone might say, “what’s the point of grieving? My tears never change anything.”

Please pay close attention here, because the answer is the difference between humanity and antipathy, love and hatred. Take time to grieve because you’re a human being and your fellows have been lost. Take time to grieve because pushing down the sorrow and jumping straight to righteous indignation and bitter castigation is no way to honor the ones who have been lost. Take time to grieve because this really is sad.

Cry to the Lord for mercy. Ask Him to walk you through the chaos of a world unhinged. Pray for the families of the lost. Remember the community that will never be the same. Pray for our nation that continues down the primrose path with each subsequent manifestation of wickedness. Trust the Lord remains Lord, even through our collective pain and anger. Hope in the brighter Day when the Lord will finally bring an end to all that torments.

While we await Christ’s return, make change happen. Pace yourself. Know that the first change must occur in our own hearts. That Christ alone must purify us with His love. Martin Luther gives excellent guidance in the Small Catechism. He states we are to love and cherish our parents and other authorities, protect and support our neighbor’s life, marriage, belongings, and reputation – basically to selflessly look out for the interests of others.

Pie in the sky, right? Wrong! Through the blood and merit of Christ, hearts of ice are melted. Take care of your heart. If you find it’s calloused because of hell repeatedly unleashed, bring it before the Lord who will lovingly massage it back to working order.

One final important component is thoughtful public discussion. The time for refusing to hear each other is long past. We are in this together. Casting blame, although momentarily satisfying, solves nothing. There is no magic pill that addresses all aspects of the sickness. Instead, there are people like you and me who love our neighbors and want evil eradicated. So go to it. Debate. State your points and ideas. Pause. Listen. Ask questions. Listen some more. Then reply. This is what “discussion” used to look like. Perhaps it could look that way again.

But for today, we grieve together.

Dear Jesus, our grieving hearts lay bare before you once again in the wake of unnecessary violence. Calm our troubled hearts. Bring hope as only You can to the many who have lost loved ones in Sutherland Springs, TX. Protect your people and watch over us gracious Lord. Amen.

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All Hallows Day

Greet every saint in Christ. (Philippians 4:21a)

All Hallows Eve and All Hallows Day, perhaps better known as Halloween and the next day, focus on death. What we know of death is that our loved ones were one day present and the next no longer. We know we can no longer talk to them, no matter how cloven our hearts may be. We know where we might visit their bodies. And we know we miss them. Death hurts us.

We can understand the desire to retain some connection, ethereal though it may be, with our deceased loved ones. For centuries, November 1st has stood as a festival day in the church to give thanks for the faithful departed – those with faith in Christ who have died – to mark their lives and remember their witness for Christ. Early Celts appeased wandering spirits with treats. Latin Americans welcome dead children back into their homes for a night. Still others don masks to remain unrecognized by the terrorizing ghosts roving the glades. Death we strive to mellow, perhaps conquer.

Facing death, we see Jesus standing next to a young man’s funeral bier, beside a young girl’s deathbed, and outside a dear friend’s sealed up tomb. Our hearts ache in empathetic pangs when we hear of Jesus weeping and grieving deeply the loss of a loved one. We can commiserate with Jesus as He stops the funeral procession of the dead lad, grasps the lifeless hand of a little girl, and shouts to the dead ears of a dear friend. We get it. Perhaps we’ve been there ourselves. Our many and varied Halloween and All Saints Day festivities expose our deep desire to connect with the dead. It would seem we understand Jesus perfectly here.

But do we really?

We merely mask death’s dreadful effects with fragrant flowers, a good embalmer, a few pat words, and a celebration of life. But such do nothing to combat the sharp reality of death in a casket. We cannot stand up to death.

But Jesus can! Enmeshed in sickening sadness, Jesus stood up to death and backed it down. Touching bier, He restored a son to a grief-stricken mother. Whispering a happy command, Jesus returned a daughter to her dumbfounded parents. With a great shout He breathed life into dead Lazarus.

Jesus Himself had a brush with death. It seemed that which is inevitable for all even stamped out the Son of the Living God. Quite right . . . for a few short days. Jesus took back His life. Nowhere will you find the buried bones of this Man because He lives! Jesus shattered the power of death. Death’s now rheumatic grip is slackened. No longer need we keep vigil for a lost spirit or ward off the wandering ghosts of the past. We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and trust His resurrection is the certainty of life restored, knowing that to all those we’ve said ‘goodbye’, we will one day soon again say ‘hello’. Look nowhere else for hope this All Hallows Day!

Lord of Heaven and Earth, fight off our enemies, especially death. Keep our trust in You. Give us a blessed end and welcome us into your kingdom. Amen.